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Cardinal Donald Wuerl: Three Principles Stand Out
Excerpt From the Roundtable Discussion on the New Climate Economy
May 20, 2015
Catholics conserving nature and protecting life.™
Three principles stand out as deserving special attention as we examine the
Church’s role in economic, scientific, cultural and political arenas.
The first principle is the dignity of the human person, whose inherent worth
and immortal destiny is the very rationale for environmental action.
Economic development has to have as a point of reference the sustainable
well being of future generations.
The second principle is an emphasis on the moral imperative to protect the
natural order. Pollution, desertification, deforestation, water shortages, the
forced displacement of whole populations by the depletion of resources, and
climate change itself all have had profound effects on the members of our
human family, especially the poor, and we cannot sit idly by without attempting to reverse the trend. We are not
just bystanders in these decisions that will determine the quality of life for generations to come.
The third principle is, in a sense, the immediate conclusion of the previous two. It is also the theme of this
seminar: that protecting the environment need not compromise legitimate economic progress. At the same time
we must recognize our grave duty to hand the earth on to future generations in such a condition that they too
can worthily inhabit it and continue to cultivate it (Caritas in veritate, n. 50). There is an increasingly clear
harmony between efforts on behalf of the environment and those that promote integral – including economic –
human development. This is the “human ecology” to which our efforts must contribute.
The need for sustainable development solutions is both a moral imperative and an economic incentive as a
business issue. To take it up courageously is pro-business. Government has a role, and we clearly need strong
international agreements. But in moving ahead, business and economic interests necessarily play a significant
role. We need to harness that wisdom and creativity in the service of the common good. Such collaboration aligns
private and public interests, and reduces the gap between the privileged minority and the world’s great majority.
The Church has always taught that profit is licit, but business must also serve the common good and pursue
justice. A new climate economy should prioritize sustainability (justice and solidarity between peoples and across
generations), as today’s theme states: economic growth and sustainability must go hand-in-hand.
Businesses large and small have much to contribute and much to gain. It is surely in our tradition to look to free
enterprise for creativity in developing the “engine” (energy) of a more climate-friendly and sustainable economy,
both domestically and internationally. We look forward to good news about the new climate economy.
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